My heart has joined the thousand, for my friend stopped running today” – Richard Adams

Yesterday I, like millions of others, shed some tears over the passing of Robin Williams. A thousand thoughts went through my head and I wanted to say so

Robin Williams - You're only given one little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it.

Robin Williams

 

much. I find it ironic that his laughter saved me from committing suicide. I never got to thank him. So, today, I thought I’d devote this space to talking about a subject that gets so little attention; mental illness. At first I thought of doing something poignant and hard-hitting but then I thought Robin Williams brought laughter to us so why not talk about this subject with laughter.

I don’t want his death to mean nothing. So let’s use this opportunity to talk.

I suffer from anxiety and have for years. So many people who have loved ones suffering from mental illness have really no idea how to help. That’s an awful feeling, being powerless in the face of such blackness. So I thought I’d give some advice from the perspective of someone living down the rabbit hole.

  • Don’t tell us how to handle it. Everyone has great ideas and you’re no exception. However, “get over it” isn’t particularly helpful when you’re gibbering in a corner. “Just ignore it” is great advice if your brain doesn’t feel like it’s trying to claw the inside of your eyelids.
  • Don’t do for us. Sure, it seems easier to just do stuff for us. After all, those of us who ride the crazy train have to dodge the hallucinations as we do the dishes. However, we’ve worked up a rhythm and when you step in to do it for us you knock us off our stride. We’re not helpless. We do stuff. Okay, so maybe I bark when I reach for the apples at the grocery store but just ignore that. Better yet, bark with me.
  • A little laughter goes a long way. Years ago when I thought suicide sounded like a great escape, I went to see the movie, “Good Morning Vietnam”. I laughed so hard that I cried. A thought hit me that if I could still laugh then I could still live. Ever since then when things get bad I reach for Robin Williams. Help us to laugh. Sometimes that’s hard when you’re lost in your own head.
  • Talk. One of the great things about kids is they ask questions. Even the ones they’re not supposed to. Somehow we lose that talent. Don’t talk about the elephant in the room. Mental illness is an elephant in the room wearing bright yellow rubber boots and singing show tunes. Talk about it. Don’t worry about offending us. We want to talk. We want you to understand.
  • Let us have our moments. You may not understand why I need to turn the lights off and on three times but I do. It may not make sense to you that I panic if the pickles are on the top shelf in the refrigerator instead of the middle shelf but it makes sense to me. I have my rituals and touchstones. Please don’t mess with them.
  • Accept us. Crazy don’t mean dumb. If you love us, then love us. That means accepting that we’re going to text 15 times in a day just to make sure you got our last message. But we have good points as well. We make amazing cupcakes and know all the best places to make out. Well, I do, anyways.

Oh, captain my captain

Robin, you’ll be missed. You left us too soon and we had so much more laughs to be had. I understand the war you waged within yourself. A war too many of us fight. Know this; your death need not be in vain. It’s a chance for us to talk about that darkness that so many of us live with. It’s time to speak out.

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